- Protect the Quarterback By Spreading the Field
Mike McCarthy has caught a lot of heat, both in the last two weeks and over the course of his tenure in general, for running what some in the local media have dubbed a 'spread offense'. Aficionados would scoff at this notion, but the truth is McCarthy was definitely incorporating spread concepts into his designs, both in New Orleans and in Green Bay, long before it became all the fad in college football and before Urban Meyer began whispering in Bill Belichick's ear and the NFL witnessed the greatest offensive performance it had ever seen by a team using a boatload of spread concepts.
For whatever reason, McCarthy has gone away from a lot of that during these first two weeks of the 2009 season, but I expect to see them back in full force this Sunday against the Rams. As Aaron Rodgers intimated earlier this week, one of the best ways McCarthy can protect the quarterback is to flood the field with options. The best thing McCarthy can do is spread the field horizontally with receivers and pick his shots deep when he senses the opportunity present itself.
Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo's defense is not the pushover Packer fans might think. No, it's not nearly as tough as the Bears or even the Bengals, and it is definitely a group in transition, with the old veteran Leonard Little manning one edge and second year end Jake Chris Long manning the other. But Spagnuolo definitely got the better of McCarthy in the NFC Championship game, mostly by ensuring Ryan Grant had no cut-back lanes and by challenging the Packers recievers at the line of scrimmage. Of course, Donald Driver made the Giants pay big for that tactic on his 90 yard touchdown, but for the most part, Spagnuolo had the recipe for defeating McCarthy's scheme. Obviously, the elements helped along with the horrific play of McCarthy's quarterback in the second half and overtime, but Spags' game plan was sound.
Now, the Rams' talent level is obviously nowhere near what Spagnuolo had to work with in New York. But Little and Long, despite not getting much pressure on the quarterback so far this season, have the potential to make life troublesome off the edges on any 3rd and long the offense faces. McCarthy has indicated that the team has not been nearly efficient enough on first and second down through the first two games. My hope is that you'll see the offense put themselves in a lot more 3rd and shorts by running a lot more 'Levels'-type plays, like the one below:
What is so instructional about this play is that while the offensive line is getting pushed back, the quarterback has multiple options for getting the ball out of his hand on the play. Even if he doesn't hit Driver, Donald Lee is also available for an even bigger gain. If this type of play is run on first down, the options available to McCarthy on second and third will open up exponentially.
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